In a sentence:
Machine-tooled for success to the point that it’s utterly unremarkable, ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ from Lewis Capaldi almost defies critical analysis.
Brimming over with sentimental, middle-of-the-road piano ballads
concerning affairs of the heart, Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi’s debut album Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
can essentially be summed up by removing the first word of the title. Coming
away from it, the listener experiences no emotional or truly engaging moments.
The ideas within the lyrics are incredibly well-worn and try too hard to be ‘relatable’
(that odious marketing concept) than resonant, reflective of his general
demeanour and social media presence. It’s hard to decide whether to take this
album seriously, or as some kind of parody or ironic comment on the state of
the calcifying British music industry. But since he’s a musician with over 15
million monthly listeners on Spotify and has his own personalised Twitter
emoji, we have to assume the former.
Most of Divinely
Uninspired… focuses on a previous relationship Lewis Capaldi had with an
old girlfriend. The opening track ‘Grace’ sets the
despondent tone of the album, and foreshadows most of what listeners can expect
musically. If this album is to be taken as a serious heartfelt release, it’s
immediately very difficult to get behind what Lewis Capaldi is trying to achieve.
The piano and guitar chords and the almost pre-set Radio 2 productions are so
insultingly bland that any genuinely sincere moments are undermined. For
example, “I was only just a breath
removed from going to waste / ‘Til I found salvation in form of your grace”
is where Capaldi has found someone that eases any negative feelings or
experiences he was having before.
Conversely, ‘Bruises’ sees him trying desperately to move on with his life. But again, the music that accompanies this track leaves a lot to be desired. In addition, his vocals, like Ed Sheeran’s, are good but not mind-blowing and, as a result, leaves a sense of monotony that infects the entire album. The weepy mega-hit single ‘Someone You Loved’ spent seven weeks at the top of the charts and, relative to the underwhelming material that surrounds it, it’s the best song on the album. Furthermore, the music video features his distant famous relative, ‘The Thick Of It’ and ‘Doctor Who’ actor Peter Capaldi.
Lewis’s vocals on multiple tracks like ‘Lost On You’, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ and ‘Fade’ repeatedly intend to
flag up adjectives like ‘deep’ and ‘passionate’ in your mind, but the context
in which they’re delivered has the opposite effect. To be honest, there is
hardly anything to say about this album. It is mind-numbing from start to
finish. The chord progressions from the pianos and guitars are predictable, and
Capaldi’s gravelly delivery is perfect almost to a fault, much like the
personality void that was the inexplicable success of Rag‘n’Bone Man a couple
of years back.
Yes, Lewis Capaldi is most definitely a funny guy with a
humorous and on-point social media presence and a big following, but the actual
impact of his debut will be here today and gone tomorrow, despite the enormous commercial
success it’s almost bound to have. Like a lot of the post-Sheeran/Ezra
rush of solo male artists who’ve emerged on major labels over the last five
years, Divinely Uninspired… is not
even particularly bad. It just sounds machine-tooled to do all the right things
in all the right places; the music swelling and receding in perfect sync with
Capaldi. It’s completely, entirely unmemorable in terms of creative risk, and
the music almost aggressively unremarkable in its execution. Which, in many
ways, is a greater crime in creative terms, and means that Divinely Uninspired… essentially defies critical analysis. Make of
it what you will, take from it what you want, but all that this album proves is
that major-label marketing strategies still work. (Harry Beynon)
Listen to Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent by Lewis Capaldi here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, Harry Beynon, Lewis Capaldi
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